The bombshell revelations in the excerpts from Donna Brazile’s soon to be published book are, of course, important and should be given wide circulation, But these should not obscure what was, as I have previously noted, the major, albeit universally unrecognized factor in Sanders’ defeat. That is, in the words of Hamilton Nolan, one of the few journalists to get it right, “labor fucked up.”
This is the same conclusion reached by Bill Curry in an excellent Real News interview with Aaron Maté:
70% of labor, in almost every case, without consulting their membership, endorsed Hillary Clinton. Labor told the country, and told its members, that its highest priorities were defeating the Trans-Pacific Trade Partnership and obtaining a living wage. Hillary Clinton was on the opposite side of both issues. In the face of polling data, even the polling data they usually prize too much, they decided to swing all of their support to her. Without teachers in Massachusetts, Bernie would have won. Without the culinary workers working under the table for Clinton in Nevada, Bernie would have won here. He certainly would have won Iowa without AFSCME, and so on. You can just go right across the board.
There’s a half-dozen states. She’d have lost them all and her campaign probably would have ended, may well have ended. She opened with three defeats to Bernie Sanders. I think she was cooked, and so I do believe that our allies did more to nominate Hillary (than the DNC)”
In other words, our supposed movement “allies” in the unions sold us out. Not something which is easy to admit. It is, however, the fact of the matter.
Brazile’s disclosures immediately reinitiated the discussion of some months ago as to whether the primary was rigged, though now with new urgency. The issue strikes me as a red herring in that it obscures how the Clinton machine operated to insure a victory. In a literal sense, at least, they did not rig the nomination, rather they exerted their influence. An example of how they did returns us to Curry’s remarks. As Curry points out, the major unions immediately endorsed Clinton, this despite her offering them virtually nothing, not to mention having served in an administration which did much worse than nothing by ramming through jobs destroying trade agreements, failing to enforce NLRB decisions and harsh reductions in the public sector workforce.
Why did they endorse? While it will be hotly denied, the answer likely has to do with quid pro quo arrangements made with union leadership who, in addition to serving in positions within Democratic administrations, were also provided access to Clinton global initiative junkets, seats on corporate and foundation boards, positions at major “progressive” think tanks and other perks provided to respectable and “serious” insiders. These favors were expected to be returned in the form of an immediate endorsement-dutifully provided, as we know, to the displeasure and disadvantage of rank and file membership which supported Sanders. Did the Clintons calling in their chips constitute “rigging” of the election? Again, not in a strict literal sense. But at a certain point, the distinction becomes merely semantic: it is clear that in essence that’s exactly what it was.
The predominant left reaction to Brazile’s charges has been to engage in yet another round of ritualistic thrashing of the DP leadership. But, while eminently deserved, no one with a basic familiarity with the facts should have regarded them as anything other than servants of the corporate donor class, which is to say, enemies of everything we are trying to accomplish. On the other hard, the labor unions are still, at least in some circles, seen as allies. That they could have won the nomination for Sanders but chose not to do so is, as I just mentioned, too bitter a pill for most of us to swallow.
That includes, most conspicuously radicals in the unions some of whom have been actively advocating #Demexit, withdrawing support from all Democratic candidates-presumably with the intention of founding a new labor based party. But that raises the question, why embark on the herculean task of doing so when all that would have been necessary for the most pro labor candidate in U.S. history to win a major party nomination was your own union leadership doing the minimum required of them-acting in accordance with the wishes of the majority of the unions members.
And why are those union leaders, most conspicuously, teachers union head Randi Weingarten whose contempt for the rank and file seems to know no bounds, not being seriously challenged for leadership?
The answer seems to be it’s always easier to dream of tilting at windmills than to get your own house in order. While the dirt Brazile has dished will, hopefully, serve as useful ammunition for the Sanders insurgency, and help to drive it forward, it won’t change the direction on which it has had it course set since the election: to replace the dominant corporate neoliberal leadership whose cynicism and corruption is now impossible to ignore.